Theatre troupe offers a thrill
Psychological thriller a departure for local group
Saturday, Mar 08, 2014 06:00 am
During a desolate St. Albert winter, there’s nothing like a slick thriller to keep audiences glued to the edge of their proverbial seats.
After all, who doesn’t like to watch the cat-and-mouse game of deduction in which a con man gradually manipulates his prey towards destruction.
St. Albert Theatre Troupe, having built a reputation on dinner theatre comedy, is expanding its season to produce a straight-ahead psychological thriller minus the dinner.
Under the direction of Louise Large, the company is mounting American playwright Sam Bobrick’s complex concoction The Spider or the Fly from March 13 to 15 at the Kinsmen Korral.
“It opened in 2008 with a premiere in California. Shortly after it opened, it went straight to publishing as opposed to running and producing it for a few years first. It’s not produced often and to my knowledge it’s the first time its been done in Canada,” says Large.
A graduate of Paul Kane High School a decade ago, Large is artistic director of Edmonton’s Defiance Theatre and has an equally extensive resume working with notables such as Catalyst Theatre’s Jonathan Christenson.
The beautifully-crafted The Spider or the Fly reveals two stories unfolding simultaneously in the same space but in different time frames.
Maura and Scott meet while serving as jurors for a grisly murder trial and become romantically involved. As the relationship develops, they disagree on what the final verdict should be and suspect that each is not the person they thought.
At the same time and in the same space that their story is played out to a frightening climax, another young couple named Tom and Jan ponders their unusual relationship that has ties to the murder case.
“Because of the mystery, some things are surreal, not quite natural. I liken it to an old Twilight Zone episode where things aren’t what they seem. They’re not quite normal,” Large notes, adding that Alfred Hitchcock’s films are a constant inspiration for this project.
Bobrick, also an author, television writer and lyricist, has written 30 plays.
“He has a history of writing plays that follow real life, but I don’t think this one was ripped from the headlines. He focuses on mystery – not the legal genre – more like Ray Bradbury.”
The text is a series of persuasive, passionate arguments that dance back and forth.
“Just when you think you know where you’re going, boom – it changes.”
To handle the play structure’s rapid-fire mechanics, Large cast actors Christine Lesiak (Maura) and Adam Keefe (Scott), two professional clown partners known as Fools For Love.
“I’ve known Adam for 15 years and he was perfect for the role of Scott. Adam and Scott both have this fantastic boyish charm and that’s one of the specific things Bobrick wrote. Scott has charisma and energy and rolls with the punches. He makes anything light and yet he goes to a dark place and does some pretty ugly things and Adam is able to balance that.”
Maura, on the other hand, is a more reserved, restrained character who goes out of her way to cover the fact that she is a very attractive woman.
“She’s very aware of what people see and Christine has this ability to get to a character from the inside out.”
Julian Stamer (Tom), who last performed in Rumors with Large, is also from St. Albert.
“Tom is a blend of shyness and confidence, and that’s Julian. He’s shy when you first meet him, but when you know him, he has a sense of humour and nails his part. He has a great sense of comedy and thoughtfulness.”
The final member of the quartet is Krista Kwarok (Jan), a MacEwan musical theatre grad with a background at Edmonton Opera.
“I like her awesome youthfulness and energy. Her performance is a wonderful counterbalance to Julian.”
Large received her directorial start at Paul Kane. She was in Grade 12 when her first production, The Massive Woman Wins, received four awards at the Regional Oct-Festival and two more at the Provincial One-Act Festival including best director and best play.
“This is a very important show for me. It’s an amazing opportunity. I got started in directing here and now 10 years later I get to come back with phenomenal support. This is a milestone for me. It’s been wonderful to bring two friends here and spread the gospel,” she said.
“I want to pay it forward and tell Edmonton this is a worthwhile troupe. It’s got a lot going on. Come be surprised and amazed. It has a lot of value.”